Women physicians and stress.
Most women physicians enjoy better than average physical health and lead satisfying and productive lives. However, higher than average rates of depression, anxiety, marital problems, and substance abuse have been reported by some, but not all, authors. This quantitative survey of 196 women physicians and qualitative focus groups with 48 other women physicians was conducted to determine perceptions of their health, stress, satisfaction, knowledge, and abuse rates in medical practice. Eight specialties plus family practice physicians participated. The average age was 44.1 years (SD 8.8, range 23-77). Seventy-four percent of women physicians were married, with children. Specialists and family physicians were similar in all demographic characteristics except that family physicians were more significantly likely to be divorced, separated, or widowed (p < or = 0.01). Specialists perceived their personal physical health to be better than that of family doctors (p < or = 0.05), and family physicians rated their medical knowledge better than that of specialists (p < or = 0.0001). Women physicians over age 50 or with children over age 19 reported the best mental health (p < or = 0.0001 and 0.003, respectively). Overall, 49% of women physicians reported usually having high levels of stress, 44% felt mentally tired, and 17% took antidepressant drugs. Seventy-three percent reported verbal abuse at work (71% in the last year), and 33% reported physical assault at work (11% in the last year). Focus groups identified three major sources of stress: high expectations, multiple roles, and work environment. These results are discussed and compared with the literature. Both personal and systemic strategies are required to solve the problems identified. Women physicians can facilitate the adoption of some of these strategies by sharing information about successes, challenges, and solutions.
Stewart, DE; Ahmad, F; Cheung, AM; Bergman, B; Dell, DL
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